Friday, 18 May 2007

The Return of Doctor X (1939)

A Humphrey Bogart horror movie is a rarity indeed. As far as I know he only made one, and The Return of Doctor X, made in 1939, is it. It’s a movie Bogart was anxious to forget. In fact, as long as you don’t expect it to be any more than a B-picture, it’s not as bad as it’s often made out to be. The movie opens with a reporter finding an actress dead in her hotel room, but she then turns up shortly afterwards at the newspaper office, very much alive. The reporter has a friend who is a doctor, who has been working with a Dr Flegg, whose specialty is blood. Dr Flegg has a very pale-faced assistant, Kane (Humphrey Bogart). The plot bears some resemblances to an earlier Warner Brothers horror film, The Walking Dead (which starred Boris Karloff). The Return of Doctor X has some good Mad Scientist moments, and there’s a hint of vampirism, albeit unconventional vampirism. As far as the look of the movie goes it has that great Warner Brothers seedy, gritty feel to it, which I always enjoy. Reporters in movies of this vintage are always annoying, but Wayne Morris’s reporter in this one is less annoying than some. Dennis Morgan as his doctor pal is OK. Rosemary Lane shares top billing but has very little to do. John Litel as Dr Flegg gives his character a certain warped nobility. And Bogart? His performance is very understated, but he is definitely creepy and that’s really all that is required of him. This movie is hardly a classic of the genre but if you enjoy the horror B-movies of this period you should find it moderately entertaining. And how often do you get to see Humphrey Bogart cuddling a cute little white rabbit?

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